Today the Catalan election campaign kicks off, with separatist and pro-Madrid parties close in the polls ahead of the December 21 vote, but who are the candidates in the Catalan election?
Separatist candidates, including Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, are either in exile or in jail.
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Earlier today, Spain’s Supreme Court withdrew a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who fled to Belgium after the regional parliament declared unilateral independence.
In a statement, the court said Judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case, decided to withdraw the warrant as the five have said they want to come back to Spain to participate in regional elections on December 21.
The central government wants Puigdemont and his associates to be imprisoned for rebellion — a charge that can carry up to 30 years in prison.
Spanish prosecutors are also pushing to extradite Puigdemont back to Spain to face trial.
Puigdemont said in a video message to supporters:
They [Madrid] want to raise as many difficulties as possible so we can’t campaign on an equal footing with the other candidates.
He added that Catalans must “choose between nation or submission, they can choose between Catalan institutions or dark characters in Madrid.”
Iko Llaneras, a pollster at Quantio, a political-risk firm based in Madrid said:
This isn’t a question where voters are undecided, it’s a polarizing issue and the key is whether you get your voters out. Pro-independence voters are very mobilized, so the scope to build on that is small.
Other than Puigdemont, Verdict takes a look at all those vying for power across both the pro-independence and the pro-unity camps.
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1. Oriol Junqueras — Catalan Republican Left (ERC) — Pro independence
Catholic historian and former vice president Junqueras is currently behind bars in a Madrid prison.
His party, the ERC, is promising a “bilateral negotiation” on independence with Madrid and the EU.
“Oriol Junqueras is in prison because they [the Spanish government] fear him,” the ERC’s second in command, Marta Rovira told reporters Monday, labeling his detention an “undercover attempt to illegalize” the separatist party.
2. Miquel Iceta — Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC) — Pro unity
Iceta said in his opening rally Monday night:
We don’t want one half of Catalonia to be happy and the other half sad, we want at least 80 percent of Catalans satisfied.
He has been the leader of the PSC since 2014, and is one of the first openly gay politicians from Spain.
3. Inés Arrimadas — Ciudadanos — Pro unity
Arrimadas’ Ciudadanos party was founded in 2006 as a form of protest against Catalan nationalism.
The party pursues an anti-nationalist agenda, pushing for more lessons to be taught in Spanish instead of Catalan in public schools.
Ciudadanos is polling first in terms of electoral preferences, ahead of the Catalan Republican Left, according to the Center for Sociological Research.
On Monday night at her party’s first official campaign rally, Arrimadas said:
Ciudadanos is ready to govern.
4. Xavier Domènech — Catalunya en Comú Podem — Unaligned
Domènech’s party backed the October 1 vote to break away from Spain, but opposed the declaration of independence that followed.
The party’s ambiguous position has seen Catalunya en Comú perform poorly in the polls compared to the previous regional election.
5. Carles Riera — Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) — Pro independence
The CUP is a half-communist, half-anarchist political party.
On Monday, at the unveiling of their campaign, Riera, the party’s leader said:
There’s no possibility of negotiating with a Francoist and fascist Spanish state. There’s only one way and it’s the unilateral one.
6. Xavier García Albiol — Popular Party of Catalonia (PPC) — Pro unity
Albiol, a former mayor of the Catalan city of Badalona, ran his local campaign with the slogan “limpiando Badalona,” (cleaning up Badalona), making a link between crime in the city and immigration.
As head of the Popular Party, he was not able to lead his party to victory in the 2015 regional election, finishing fifth.
Ats it stands today, the party isn’t faring well in the polls.